‘Remembering Edward Said’

‘Remembering Edward Said’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Nov-Dec 2003

Edward Said was a longstanding friend and comrade. We first met in 1972, at a seminar in New York. Even in those turbulent times, one of the features that distinguished him from the rest of us was his immaculate dress sense: everything was meticulously chosen, down to the socks. It is almost impossible to visualize him any other way. At a conference in his honour in Beirut in 1997, Edward insisted on accompanying Elias Khoury and myself for a swim. As he walked out in his swimming trunks, I asked why the towel did not match. ‘When in Rome’, he replied, airily; but that evening, as he read an extract from the Arabic manuscript of his memoir Out of Place, his attire was faultless. It remained so till the end, throughout his long battle with leukaemia.

Over the last eleven years one had become so used to his illness—the regular hospital stays, the willingness to undergo trials with the latest drugs, the refusal to accept defeat—that one began to think him indestructible. Last year, purely by chance, I met Said’s doctor in New York. In response to my questions, he replied that there was no medical explanation for Edward’s survival. It was his indomitable spirit as a fighter, his will to live, that had preserved him for so long. read more